Paddy Davitt verdict: Farke’s Way can work at Norwich City
PUBLISHED: 05:30 27 December 2017 | UPDATED: 08:49 27 December 2017
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We may have cause to look back on a cold, miserable day in the West Midlands as the real trigger for Daniel Farke’s quest to mould a new Norwich City identity.
This being football and all its gloriously unpredictable sub-plots, we may not. January’s transfer window may have a surprise or two in store.
The ever-present spectre of injury or suspension may intervene.
Such currents have buffeted Farke’s squad for most of this campaign of light and shade.
But for the first time since his summer arrival heralded a major change of direction, and a break from the past, you could see just what might be possible.
A cohesive system without the ball.
Disciplined, organised and erected around two players in Alex Tettey and Tom Trybull who look the perfect match.
Tettey’s experience and combativeness mask Trybull’s vulnerability when caught the wrong side of the ball.
Trybull’s coolness in possession and his wonderful ability to read the game are a foil for the Norwegian’s industry and endeavour.
Simply put, Norwich look a better side with both anchoring the midfield.
Behind them, a defence which has had plenty of heartache to endure can rely on extra protection; a shield which makes it much more difficult to test Angus Gunn.
In front of them, you see the greater freedom afforded James Maddison and Alex Pritchard to roam higher up the pitch and inflict maximum damage.
The combination for the opening goal, crafted from a slick free kick routine, is why both are in this side.
It is not for their defensive work or willingness to dig in.
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Farke’s quest to knit creativity with a residual resolve has proved elusive. Now he has the tools at his disposal to move forward.
It may not be the mastery of possession and patient build up play he favours, but again at St Andrews, when City switched to the counter-puncher’s stance, they looked a streetwise, effective fighting force.
The remarkable full debut of teenage left back Jamal Lewis was an added extra.
The composure and youthful vigour underlined why both Farke and sporting director Stuart Webber were so keen to fast-track him during pre-season and then ensure he signed a longer term deal at Carrow Road.
The manner he dealt with Jota, prior to the midfielder’s half-time exit, was masterful at times.
His positional sense and maturity when Birmingham attempted to target him belied his tender years. There will be fallow periods and inconsistency ahead; such is the downside to blooding potential, but Lewis is ready now.
Josh Murphy’s highs and lows over recent months illustrate the point.
This was a good day for the attacking midfielder, capped by a cool finish. The tone was set early with the aggressive nature of his pressing and the responsible manner he tracked back to support Lewis.
There was an understanding down the Norwich left which has largely been absent for the most part.
One must insert the inevitable caveat here. Birmingham went into the game rock bottom and once Pritchard had lashed Norwich in front you could see any fragile confidence visibly seep away.
Murphy’s strike was the cue for a large exodus from a home support who had seen enough, with still a quarter of the game left.
City’s fan base is not the only one seemingly fed slim rations.
The template Farke unveiled at St Andrews once again demonstrated its robustness. Honing a version that works at Carrow Road could really propel Norwich’s season forward.
Opponents may well elect to sit in and try to frustrate, but the movement and guile City displayed in attacking motions at Birmingham should translate to home soil. The onus at Carrow Road will clearly remain on Farke’s side to force the play but that can be achieved with the same intelligence shown on the road in their best spells.
Burton ground out a 0-0 league draw earlier this season in Norfolk.
It is unlikely City will encounter any greater ambition on Saturday. But that previous Brewers’ clash lacked Pritchard’s impudence or Lewis’ vitality or Maddison’s class, for all bar the final six minutes of that drab affair.
Now there is enough evidence to feel should Norwich prove just as obdurate without the ball they have too much quality where it matters not to find a way.
If what they served up at St Andrews is the norm, rather than the exception, then the second half of the season may carry greater promise.
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